It’s one of the greatest comebacks of the decade: Shortly after Rocky and just before Rambo and Indiana Jones, the second hero of the old guard reaches the new millennium. Faithful to the first episodes, it’s evil terrorists who threaten the USA. As the “Dot Zero” of the german title - Stirb Langsam 4.0, Die Hard 4.0 - suggests, the methods of terror aren’t of a classical nature, but those of the new millennium. With a handful of hackers the two terrorists Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) and Mai Lihn (Maggie Q) are out to destroy infrastructure, supply and financial systems and thus throw the country into panic and anarchy. The first couple of steps go according to plan, FBI and NSA are powerless against the unconventional methods of the “virtual terrorism”. But Gabriel and his troup of battlesome middle- and east-europeans have yet to deal with John McClane (Bruce Willis), who once more has a really bad day.
Between the Smokin Aces’, the 16 Blocks’ and the Mission: Impossibles, it seemed like one of the old heroes was needed, who by choice seems like a foreign particle in this digital world, to show the new guys how a good action movie has to look. No dramaturgical experiments, no plot twists out of auteur hell and no line of dialog too many. Live Free or Die Hard formally is a movie of the old, linear school, but stays timely nonetheless. The post-9/11 trauma is a constant theme and the clever manipulation of the media by the terrorists shows how dependent the modern world is of its technical systems. If these systems don’t work anymore, the economical and social foundations collapse. The way this is executed may seem a bit blatant but prooves to be a functional basis for the well known, effective main plot of the “man on a mission”.
So the question of how much action ist too much action can’t be asked for Live Free or Die Hard. The two hours running time are filled with breathless speed and everything the modern effect-cinema has to offer. Director Len Wiseman hits the right mixture of action, humor and necessary seriousness and gives his bombastic style, which only once really goes over the top, a halfway believable basis. This mix undoubtledly is directed at pure entertainment: one-liners en masse, situational comedy, self referencing and irony not only loosen up the proceedings but become a central element. The cast - among others Justin Long and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are also on board - play their part in this, no doubt, and for the most part they lift the film above the usual formulae.
Live Free or Die Hard is nothing less than the best and most entertaining action movie in years. It rocks and rolls, is a ton of fun and single handedly saves modern action cinema.
Christian Simon, MovieGod.de